Home > Ruthless Game (GhostWalkers #9)

Ruthless Game (GhostWalkers #9)
Author: Christine Feehan

CHAPTER 1

The lone coyote trotted across the desert on the outskirts of the city. Bold, he nosed close to the trash scattered along the edges of the sand. The night air was cool, but the sand was still warm from the hot day’s sun. He padded along, nose to the ground, sniffing around the back of a long structure until he came to an alleyway. Someone coughed, and a bottle smashed against the side of the building. The coyote whirled and ran. He’d been shot at many times coming in too close to these particular buildings, but the food was unusually plentiful. Still, he didn’t want to take a chance, not when there were so many men walking around so late at night.

The coyote reluctantly slunk away from the banquet, edged out to a pile of boulders, and hunched down, waiting for things to settle a little more before he made another try. In the distant desert, he heard a muffled sound, like the beating of large wings, and he turned his head toward the sky, cowering closer to the rock.

The helicopter came in fast and low, running without lights and in eerie silence. Ropes dropped from the open doors, and five men descended fast and, in one smooth, coordinated motion, began sprinting across the desert with unprecedented speed. Seconds later the helicopter was gone, and the coyote surged to his feet, ready to run as the men, nothing more than shadows, raced toward him. There was no sound, not even the thud of boots on sand. The wind carried their scents, and as they approached, their bodies were more defined, appearing as a single dark entity with ten glowing eyes.

The coyote took a few steps one way and then, as the men split apart, running no more than two feet from one another in perfect unison, he stepped in the other direction, whirled, tail down, and then stopped, confused. The men rushed by like the wind, not so much as hesitating, yet those strange eyes flashed over the animal as he cowered, obviously seeing him, although he was in the darker shadow of the rocks.

Javier, you’re on. Just take a look. Hear what I’m saying? A look. No one dies yet. Mack McKinley, leader of GhostWalker Team Three, sent his first man into the hot zone. The unique GhostWalker unit he led had no need of radios. They were all telepathic.

I’m hurt, boss. Laughter spilled into Mack’s mind. Why would you ever think someone might die?

Mack sent Javier Enderman a stern warning look. Javier could see easily in the darkness, even when he chose not to. He looked like a kid with his dark black eyes and innocent, boyish face—one of his greatest assets. Everyone always underestimated him, if they ever actually saw him.

Urban warfare was a unique art. Every citizen in a hot zone could potentially be innocent—or an enemy. It took special men and women with nerves of steel to be able to function in such a high-stress situation. His GhostWalker unit was comprised of such individuals, all highly trained and with very special, unique psychic gifts.

Mack and the others dropped to their bellies, disappearing into the sand just feet from the first building at the edge of the city. Javier jogged with absolute confidence right up to the structure and into the alley. As he got closer to the buildings, his solid form simply disappeared, blending completely with his surroundings.

I think our informant is on to something. We’ve got a major force here, Mack, Javier reported. Guns on the roof, stairways, tucked in the alleys. I see several at the windows in the building across the street. Big op here.

Can you find a way to blend in without having to kill anyone? We aren’t supposed to be here. Get in, get out with the package, and no one the wiser.

Javier sighed heavily. You know, boss, you’re maligning my character. Of course I can find a way to blend. No faith.

Mack’s gut tightened. Javier was an accomplished assassin despite his youthful, innocent appearance. He was highly skilled with explosives and a maniac when it came to computers. Highly intelligent, he followed one person, and that was Mack. Javier could usually find a group of teens and simply join them, but the kids in this part of the city were most likely paid to report strangers. He refrained from telling Javier to be careful, knowing the man wouldn’t appreciate his caution, but they’d been raised on the streets together. Javier was more than a teammate—he was family, and Mack looked after family.

These men had followed him into hell, and Mack felt responsible for them. They had all thought psychic enhancement was an exciting program, one that would allow them the best ability to save lives and serve their country—and maybe it would have been, had it not been run by a madman who had not only enhanced their psychic abilities but had also changed their DNA, adding the animal enhancements he thought would make them all supersoldiers.

There was Gideon Carpenter, a man who would be their savior in any crisis. He had eyes like a hawk, could shoot the wings off a fly with hands as steady as a rock. He would protect them from great distances, and so far, Mack had never known him to miss. Before he could get into position, they would need to have information and the rooftop of his choice cleared.

Ethan Myers lay on his belly, eyes locked on the structures ahead, his body streamlined for climbing. The man could go up a building like a spider, clear the rooftop, and be gone before anyone ever knew he’d been there. He waited, coiled to react, as steady as they came.

Mack glanced to the man on his right. Kane Cannon was the fifth man making up their team of rescuers. Kane had always been with him, from the streets of Chicago, college, every type of Special Forces training available to them as well as the GhostWalker experiments and additional field training. Kane always guarded his back, and he knew exactly what Mack was thinking. He shifted his weight subtly, telling Mack he was ready. He was invaluable, a man who literally could see through walls and into buildings. He could lay out the position of the enemy in seconds.

Our informant should be in the third apartment, bottom floor, corner building, Mack sent telepathically to his team. You’re up, Kane. Make certain she’s alone. Sergeant Major is sure the information could not have been obtained by anyone other than a GhostWalker. This is an unknown and could be a trap.

Kane shoved upward with his hands, and his feet went smoothly under him in a practiced move. He ran low, muscles warm and fluid, sending him across the open feet of desert to the entrance of the alley Javier had gone through. Smells assailed him: urine and alcohol mixed with cooked meat. He slipped inside the dark shadow of the alley and instantly became part of it. He moved, shrouded in silence, knife in hand, as he approached the street.

The scent of death was strong. Dim light spilled a foot into the alley from the street. He crouched low and carefully searched out the darker shadows. A body lay crumpled against the base of the building, in the darkest spot. Kane crouched beside him. An automatic weapon was still in his hand, and the body was warm. His neck was broken. Javier had encountered an enemy and quietly disposed of him. There was no communication device, which meant either he wasn’t part of a guard detail or Javier had taken the device.

Sighing, Kane rose and stepped to the very edge of the alley where he could scan the buildings across the street. Seeing through a building always took a toll. Javier had to be in position to cover him. He waited, counting the seconds.

Men with guns seemed to be in every doorway, patrolled the rooftops and along the long balcony of the second story. They were out in force, and few people dared to take to the streets. He spotted some teens throwing knives and trying to look tough at the end of the street, closest to the desert. Javier was distinctive. He swaggered with his cool confidence, showing them all how it was done and giving advice. It seemed impossible that he could insert himself into a group on the lookout for strangers, but Javier always managed—and out in the open.

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